Saturday, January 12, 2008

Thought, language, and art: some conjectures

One thing that always bothered me about objectivism:

A foundational premise of its ethics and politics is that thought is private, ie thinking is solely an individual process. I could never quite explain how language figured into the picture, since pretty much anything one can think can be communicated; thus thought can be shared.

Hoffstaeder (the author) took that tought to a new level the other day. I havn't yet read the book where he goes into detail about it ("I am a Strange Loop,") but the snippet from Wikipedia was shocking enough to rock my mind:

<<<...Hofstadter claims that our sense of having (or being) an "I" comes from the abstract pattern he terms a "strange loop", which is an abstract cousin of such concrete phenomena as audio and video feedback, and which Hofstadter has defined as "a level-crossing feedback loop". The prototypical example of this abstract notion is the self-referential structure at the core of Gödel's incompleteness theorems. Hofstadter's 2007 book I Am a Strange Loop carries his vision of consciousness considerably further, including the idea that each human "I" is distributed over numerous brains, rather than being limited to precisely one brain.[17]

Note the last line. Compelling?

Pre-language, thought must have been necessarily private. Though one must take into account more primitive forms of communication like gestures; but the point is that the communication of thought must have been so low-bandwidth as to render thought effectively private. The advent of language, especially flexible language that can accommodate new ideas, must have dramatically increased the ability/bandwidth of thought sharing; thus culture is born and a with it a sustained sense of "self." Recorded culture (in the form of art and records) gives a permenance and lastingness to the sense.

So what is the societal role of the rouge individual who's sense of self lays outside outside the common? Perhaps the same role that random mutation plays in genetics: to test the fitness of the organism(s) in the current environment.

So then what is the role of social censure of these rouge mutations? The analogy seems to lend itself to an immune response, an evolved characteristic of lasting cultures must be self-sustenance, and the purging of contradictory ideas would lend support and stability.

The organism/evolution analogy seems useful, but its a bit awkward in dealing with the individual/group dynamic. Does the Meme theory suggest that culture is a single, lasting organism? The analogy would be more direct if cultures had a lifecyle, and it seems that the hypothesis could be adapted to fit that assumption to the observations of history. How do physical individuals (the substrates of these "cultural organism") related to the indivality of the cultural organisms? Perhaps a physical individual could be host to various cultural inviduals over the course of their life, or several simultaneously?

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